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‘Marriage’ off at HBO

Exex drop project after seeing pilot

HBO and Steven Bochco are splitting up, while ABC is renewing its vows with the producer by developing a cop drama with him.

On the divorce front, HBO has decided not to move forward with “Marriage,” an hourlong drama from Bochco and Alison Cross (“Philly”) that was to have taken place entirely in the bedroom area of a New York City couple’s apartment (Daily Variety, Nov. 6).

HBO had made a 13-episode commitment to the project, and Bochco had already wrapped production on the pilot episode.

After seeing the pilot and a second script, however, HBO execs decided the bedroom-only setting wasn’t conducive to a successful continuing skein.

“They made a very good pilot, but we had serious reservations about whether it could be sustained as a series,” an HBO spokeswoman said.

HBO has shown a willingness to kill projects even after they’ve been greenlit to series. Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana’s “Baseball Wives” was developed for quite some time — and snagged a 13-episode order — before the net ultimately pulled the plug. This fall’s “Carnivale” also took much longer than normal to get on the air.

Bochco said execs at the cabler “were very complimentary” about the pilot but ultimately didn’t feel confident about moving ahead.

“It’s really a unique and special piece, and I can certainly understand their anxiety with it,” Bochco told Daily Variety. “I don’t agree with their concerns, but I certainly can’t argue with their feelings.

“You can’t force people to air something they don’t believe in nor would you want to even if you could,” he added. “You want a supportive partner. It is ‘Marriage,’ after all.”

Bochco first pitched “Marriage” to HBO nearly four years ago, but the cabler initially wasn’t interested. Producer brought the idea to HBO topper Chris Albrecht again last year, and the exec snapped it up.

Producer said he briefly considered reshaping the hour so that it didn’t take place only in a bedroom, but ultimately decided that doing so would defeat the purpose behind the skein.

“I remember when I did ‘Cop Rock,’ the folks at ABC said, ‘It’s a terrific cop show if you just take out the music,'” Bochco said. “I could have done that, but then, it’s just a cop show, and that’s not what I had an interest in doing at the time. With this particular project at HBO, it was never about chasing a buck.”

Bochco flirted briefly with keeping his “Marriage” alive, discussing the show with execs at Showtime. Cabler ultimately passed, and Bochco said he’s now focusing on series development for the next thing.

First up: a cop drama for ABC, which Bochco is writing with Matt Olmstead and Nicholas Wootton, the scribes Bochco worked with on last spring’s Fox pilot “NYPD 2069.”

Bochco declined to give details of the project, which is in the early stages of development and is targeted for fall 2004.

“All I’ll say is, it ain’t like any cop show you’ve ever seen before,” he said.

ABC will decide by March 2004 whether Bochco’s “NYPD Blue” will return for a 12th season.